New Rembrandt in the Hermitage Amsterdam

It was an unexpected extra gift at a breakfast meeting of VNO-NCW entrepreneurs at the Hermitage Amsterdam: to see the new Rembrandt painting Portrait of a Young Gentleman exposed since a day in the museum. We were so happy that we could be part of this new joy! The new Rembrandt was discovered by Dutch art collector Jan Six on an auction in London where he bought it for 137.000 pounds only – as a 17th century specialist he knew rightaway that it was a real Rembrandt and he worked two years with several experts to prove it. He published his findings on May 16 as you can read in this NYT-article. The new Rembrandt is a spectacular finding that you can admire in the Hermitage Amsterdam until June 15.

Our meeting in the Hermitage proved us all about the benefits of the Art for Children program. Thousands of children in Amsterdam learn about art every year and some 140 talented kids follow a special program to develop their skills. All this is completely free of charge thanks to many generous donations. The approach is inclusive, children from all parts of the city participate.
   
I was impressed by the size and the quality of the program. Our meeting took place before the opening times of the museum and this is also the moment when children are free to visit 63 top pieces like the fantastic Dutch Masters, coming from the Hermitage St Petersburg and still to be seen in the Hermitage Amsterdam until May 27 (2018). They were watching, discussing, asking questions, making comments or just lying on the floor among top pieces to make their own drawings. I have not just fallen in love with the new Rembrandt but also with the Hermitage itself 🙂
Some specific paintings I like to mention here (it is impossible to describe 63 top pieces from the Dutch Golden Age):

 

Landscape with the prophet Elia
by Abraham Bloemaert (1583-1633)

 

 

 

Portrait of Cornelia Haringh
by Govert Flinck (1615-1660)

 

 

 

 

 

Birds in a parc 
by Melchior d’Hondecoeter (1636-1695)

 

 

 

 

Portrait of an Old Jew
by Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1666)

 

 

 

 

Also in Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Amsterdam Heritage Days
Amsterdam Tower: a must-visit!

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

  Today, November 12 2017, the well-known presentator Leila Prnjavorac read one of the great Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls in a gigantic bed in the Public Library of Amsterdam. It was a great act to observe, especially at the moment that all the children imitate the ‘camouflage’ that Queen Nanny (1686 – 1733) taught the Marrons at Jamaica to protect themselves from the English ennemy. See and enjoy the youtube I produced about that particular story (in Dutch, click on the image):

The book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls has now been translated for Dutch children under the title Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes. The stories of 100 special women are described in a nice, easy-to-go way in combination with beautiful and colorful images.
Is it possible to be inspiring and practical on a simple page? Yes it is.
For example the book describes the story of an Irish girl who wanted to be a sailor and a pirate. When her father told her that her long read hair would get stuck in the ropes of the sails, she just cut her hair off, leaving her father no other choice than to take her onto the ship. Girls learn that there are solutions to problems they might face and that they can take action all by themselves. And they see what can be achieved. The Irish girl ended up being personal friends with the Queen of England she initially fought against. It is a joy to read the different stories of the book, with women from all over the world, from many cultures.
No shortcomings in this book then? Yes, but just one. The choice was made to describe also the stories of women still alive. That always comes with the risk that they might still do less heroic things after the story was written. For example Myanmarese Aung San Suu Kyi is in the book as a Nobel Price winning political hero. However at this very moment her Nobel Price is heavily discussed due to her negative role in the immense drama of ethnic cleansing of the Rohinya in Myanmar – not exactly the good night story one would choose for one’s kid to tell…
However, this is a minor shortcoming that still leaves 99/100 inspiring stories in the book. Therefor I warmly recommend it for all rebel girls >>> and their mothers!

Bedtijdverhalen voor Rebelse Meisjes
Geschreven door Elena Favilli en Francesca Cavallo
Uitgegeven 2017 door Rose Stories

Another blog you might like: Puteaux: a French world in pink and blue
Or this one: Left Handers Day and high giftedness

Daarom stem ik 15 maart op Dilan Yeşilgöz

Ik had een collega die ontslag heeft genomen en de politiek is ingegaan en nu zie ik haar ineens overal”, vertelde een verbaasde ambtenaar me enkele jaren terug. ‘Dilan Yeşilgöz zeker”, zei ik meteen. Zijn verbazing kon ik plaatsen – we kennen allemaal van die mensen die grootse plannen hebben (meedoen aan de campagne van Hillary Clinton en zo) en daarna hoor je er nooit meer wat van. Maar Dilan Yeşilgöz, die leverde meteen aan tal van actuele onderwerpen een belangrijke bijdrage.

Ineens beschikte de Amsterdamse gemeenteraad weer over iemand die veiligheid prominent agendeerde, die opkwam voor vrijheid en die daarbij ook nog diepgaand verstand heeft van diversiteit & inclusie. Dat is belangrijk want veel mensen hebben vooral een mening over diversiteit & inclusie maar weinig inzicht in de maatschappelijke en organisatorische dynamiek die het teweeg brengt. Dat is wel nodig en Dilan heeft het.
Ja, je ziet Dilan Yeşilgöz overal, met veel enthousiasme en energie. Ik loop al wat langer mee in het politieke landschap en niet altijd met blijdschap. Zo zat ik vorige verkiezingen een campagneavond naast een kandidaat-kamerlid dat zich vrij passief opstelde en toen ik vroeg wat die persoon ambieerde, zei: “ik wacht het wel af”. Neem dan Dilan: vol vuur, passie en charme, altijd met uitstekende voorbereiding van zaken, vliegt ze erop af. Niks afwachten. Hup we gaan ervoor. Het is nooit nodig geweest om aan haar te vragen wat ze ambieerde wat dat is glashelder.

Mijn stem gaat daarom op 15 maart naar Dilan Yeşilgöz, lijst 1 plaats 19.

Wat ik bewonder in Dilan is dat ze heel erg zuiver kan redeneren en debatteren; ze gaat tot de kern van de zaak ongeacht met wie ze in debat gaat en wat het onderwerp is. Ze laat zich niet afleiden van waar het haar om gaat, terwijl ze in contact blijft met degenen om haar heen. Als je visie combineert met deze vaardigheden, kun je samen met leden van andere partijen (een noodzaak in dit land) mooie dingen bouwen voor alle burgers.

Anne Frank House Amsterdam: remembrance and reflection

Anne Frank House bookcase
2000 inhabitants of Amsterdam got free tickets to visit the Anne Frank House during evening hours without queues. I was lucky to be one of them: a great initiative, thanks! It was wonderful to wander through the ‘Achterhuis’ in a quiet and respectful atmosphere.
The Anne Frank House is not far from my home and I pass the long rows of tourists a few times a week or I better say: try to pass….It is always busy, noisy, not a place where you’d like to go as an inhabitant.
I think I went there once, as a child – I remember it quite well, especially the book case (on the picture) that served as protection from the entrance to the hide-out of 8 Jewish people. These people spent 2+ years there but were betrayed at the end and only one of them, the father of Anne Frank, survived the holocaust.
anne frank house quoteCompared to my childhood visit many elements were added in the ‘museum’; quotes on walls or on blinded windows – short video’s from witnesses, classmates of Anne and the like. They are very impressive.
What I remember most are the words of Otto Frank on his daughter’s diary. He always felt close to his daughter but when he read her diary after the war, he realized that she never showed the deep thoughts and feelings that she wrote down. Since that moment he thinks that parents rarely know their children to the full. I guess that could be true. The way he expresses is very refined and respectful towards his daughter. I cannot write it down, you have to go visit the Anne Frank House and see that movie to understand the impression it made. And then imagine that he read that diary when she had already died (when she had already been killed). He would never have the opportunity to ask her any question any more…
Anne Frank House opening hoursI really thank the Anne Frank House for this opportunity. I wonder why this does not become more usual in Amsterdam. As for me, it is not about the free ticket, but the fact that I could go at 21.00h (I came home from work only at 19.30 and had to have dinner first) and that I did not need to wait in a queue or go in with plenty of loud speaking tourists. Would it be financially difficult for musea to have similar evening offers or are they just not used to opening hours in the evening?
As for the Anne Frank House tonight, it left me with quite some emotions as we live in difficult times and the idea that ‘it could happen again’ is in the hearts and minds of many. A place for remembrance and reflection, most valuable.

Other blogs that you might find interesting:
Jewish museum Warsaw
Sderot: 15 seconds to run for your life
Mikvé Israel-Immanuel synagogue: religious pearl in orange-loving Willemstad
Grandfathers, Jews and the impulse to act

 

Adam Tower: a must-visit!

Amsterdam tower

It is new and it is brilliant, the Adam Tower – a remake of the former Shell research labs in Amsterdam. I had a great time this week while giving a presentation about dealing with international business and culture in front of spectacular views over Amsterdam. Nevertheless my public was highly attentive, for a moment I doubted whether they would be with me at all but they did 🙂
If you look at the photo above and you see the 9 meter high windows in top of the building, that is where I stood – and here are some pictures of the views:

amsterdam tower  amsterdam toweramsterdam tower  amsterdam tower
The making of the Adam Tower is a story out of a wizard book: three Dutch guys who were succesfull in the international music scene decided to cooperate in this and won the battle for the tower in competition with 34 other interested parties. They turned it into a combination of music company offices, a hotel, different bars, restaurants and clubs with a 360° turning restaurant in top: a music tower!
On top they offer a platform for all inhabitants of Amsterdam and our tourists to watch the spectacular panorama and to take a seat in Europe’s highest swing: the Amsterdam lookout. Alas I had serious business to do when I was there so I definitely have to come back to experience that swing!
Our city is blessed with these creative entrepreneurs who make such major contributions to the quality of life in Amsterdam: well done, thank you guys!
Last but not least an photo-impression (made with my phone, lack of quality, in reality much better) of the elevator going up: the music experience starts already from there…
amsterdam tower elevator  amsterdam tower elevator
Adam Tower, a new experience not to be missed!

Other must-visits in or around Amsterdam:
Anne Frank House
Keukenhof: 7 million spring-flowering bulbs
Vlinderado

 

Amsterdam Maker Festival – to be developed

amsterdam makers festival
‘Vague’ is the best word for the impression the Amsterdam Maker Festival made on me. I must have missed something but to me it was more a fair than a festival. I think most people did not spend more than 1-1,5 hours there. Somehow the announcement of this ‘festival’ created big expectations but I guess the floor was too innovative for simple visitors to get any idea of sense and nature of what was going on – especially on the first floor where Makerversity resides. It is clear that the 1st floor is an inspiring working area for new businesses but what on earth were we as visitors doing there? I liked the Javascript-Dress though (< on the left) but it was just hanging there, no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
amsterdam maker cafeOn the groundfloor the program was accessible for all: drinks, food, all Amsterdam made. Think of Kesbeke, Frites uit Zuyd, and the best peanut butter I ever ate – but strange enough the website of the festival doesn’t even mention them, nor some other very good products that show the best of Amsterdam.
amsterdam maker festival 3 On the 3rd floor, there was a mixture of concrete stuff like lamps, jewelry and a spectacular artist in velvet (Velvet Matters), her work is really worth a visit! However a big part of the floor was empty and there were also objects like this one on the left – again no one around, no explanation or anything. Why, what, how??
The idea of an Amsterdam Maker Festival is great, I heard many positive reactions on that. For a next version, there is some work to do. For example, what is Amsterdam Made > does it really include Leiden, Nijmegen and the like? The festival seems to expand Amsterdam not just with a small circle but by conquering all of our country. And who exactly is the public for this festival: kids, grownups, nerds, general public, people who come to buy something, or people interested in some kind of experience (and then: what experience)? And last but not least: the website of the Amsterdam Maker Festival that is not very accessible for general public and does not mention half of the things general public would be interested in (like finding back the special peanut butter whose name I did not write down when I was on the spot). Amsterdam is a great brand that inspires many people. I really hope this will be continued!

Read also: Dutch entrepreneurs then and now
Or: Adam Tower: a must-visit!
Or: Herring Party in Dutch version

Forget about the rules. Be human.

forget about the rules   Forget about the rules, be human. That came to my mind this week. Amsterdam keeps surprising me. I spent an interesting evening in a famous entrepreneurial location in Amsterdam Centre. When leaving, we had to wait for our coats at the wardrobe downstairs. In this club, coats are personally handed to all visitors. In front of us was a line of ‘foreign’ people. They appeared to be refugees who had been invited this evening by entrepreneurs who were willing to help them integrate and find a job. A great initiative.
The guy in the cloakroom was happy to help us Dutch entrepreneurs to put on our coats. ‘You can’t do that to them you know’, he said. To explain the ‘them’, he pointed to the refugees that stood in front of the location, talking a while in front of the entrance before they left like all people in Amsterdam do. He said some Syrians that were more ‘integrated’ than the newcomers in front of the door, warned him that his help to put on the coats would not be appreciated; ‘please do not try it, you will get trouble’. ‘You know’, he said, ‘they feel they submit to you when you help them with their coat. And you cannot touch the women. It would feel like you own them. So I just give their coats to them and that’s it’. ‘Well, you can help me’, one of the female entrepreneurs said I think to console him and it worked, he smiled and helped her to put on her coat.
Amsterdam is a modern, diverse and tolerant city. However there are moments that I think we are just retarded – this was one of these moments. Almost all my life I have been going out, working, discussing, learning, experiencing with people from the Middle East. How come I never had any problems with coats, handing coats, helping people into coats? Who invented a scheme where refugees ‘feel they submit’ in such cases? Not the refugees themselves, I am sure about that. Also I do not think anybody has bad intentions here. This is what happens when people are confronted with difference: they try to find rules how to behave or not behave. People want to do good and try to be on the safe side. The tragic is that they miss the point: the contact is in personal involvement and not in cultural rules.
The generally present inclination to follow rules is what I call ‘retarded’. I feel embarrassed when I meet with that in an entrepreneurial place in Amsterdam Centre. The good thing is: we talk about it. We talk about almost anything in Amsterdam. No borders to what we want to express. But also, when it comes to diversity: way to go… We need to have more confidence in our personal approach than in the supposed rules of intercultural contact. Forget about the rules. Be human. The refugees will love it…

A blog you might find interesting: 500.000 Syrian refugees in Gaziantep
Or this blog: Perceptions of Power

 

Amsterdam Heritage Days

amsterdam heritage days

 

Today many ‘hidden’ monuments opened their doors, their treasures for the public in Amsterdam on the occasion of Amsterdam Heritage Days. Most of those monuments look like museums but they are not, they are used in ordinary working or private life every day. Imagine to live in places like that! For example the one on the picture (left), that by the way was only recently found: a ceiling dating back to 1585 (!), one of the oldest in Amsterdam and not comparable to anything that you have seen before…
Or the spectacular walls, mirrors and ceilings in the backpart of the Bartolotti house (1755) that is being restaured now to function as a museum and a place to gather.
huis bartolotti amsterdam heritage days  huis bartolotti 2 amsterdam heritage days Ok it was a very very rich guy who built this – he inherited loads of money from an uncle in Italy, this was not for everybody in Amsterdam at that time. He spent the money well, leaving us a heritage that makes people happy. We stood in a long row to enter this place…. but it was worth it. If you visit Amsterdam, keep an eye on this; most problably it will be officially opened as a museum somewhere in 2016.
hammerstein advocaten amsterdam heritage days Another spectacular monument is the Hammerstein Lawyers Office in the 17th century ‘Golden Curve’ of the Amsterdam canals. It is difficult to describe the beauty of that place. Imagine it was your office! 17th and 18th century paintings, mirrors, doors and fireplaces… The marble entrance to the stairs is completely original from the 17th century.hammerstein advocaten 2 amsterdam heritage days  hammerstein advocaten 3

Thanks to organisations like the National Musical Instrument Fund, the Hendrick de Keijser association and Hammerstein Lawyers, both tourists and locals could enjoy many hidden treasures in Amsterdam. Amsterdam Heritage Day is a great tradition.

More Heritage in Amsterdam:
Hermitage Amsterdam
Anne Frank House

Amsterdam-Tel Aviv twinning at CIDI: pffff….

amsterdam tel aviv I got an invitation to a meeting at CIDI about Amsterdam-Tel Aviv as potentially twinning cities, quite a heavy debate at this moment in Amsterdam because the leftist parties in our city council have turned against it out of fear to introduce the problems of that region to Amsterdam. A matter of overconfidence in the city council’s powers, by the way, because the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision…
The main reason for me to go to the meeting was that CIDI invited Eytan Schwartz, the senior political advisor to the mayor for this issue, and Mickey Gitzin, member of the left-liberal Meretz party in the Tel Aviv city council. So this was an opportunity to get direct information from people involved, an opportunity not to be missed.
Arriving at the CIDI was the first painful moment. I pass the Anne Frank House and the Hollandse Schouwburg several times a week, and here I saw the same thing: the police protection unit that is now, in Amsterdam 2015, permanently there (see the picture above). A reality that does not become normal in our city that is so free in general…
Moreover I had to pass a guard, a special fence, a double door at the entrance and then I was in… and nobody seemed to bother. I expected some kind of reception but there was none. So as a new person I decided to direct towards the coffee corner just to give myself an attitude and I was not disappointed there, like in many places the women do the hospitality, they were very nice and made me feel more at ease.
The meeting did not disappoint me in the sense that the guests were brilliant. They explained very clearly what Tel Aviv is like, how they work, what they want to achieve (a great city for their citizens, not creating peace for the whole world but building a better day-to-day life which contains also ‘boring’ aspects like the sewing system). They showed that Tel Aviv is a vibrant and tolerant city that could exchange in many aspects with Amsterdam to the benefit of both cities. Their aim is not to do diplomacy but to come to practical solutions that work.
Also they impressed me with their explanation of how they deal with the complexity of the region they live in: they got very, very critical questions from the public at the CIDI meeting and they were capable to explain their private moral standards, dilemmas, decisions in a way that is rare to hear. I learned more from them in an hour than I learned in the whole last week and maybe even month. I love to learn so they made my day. I could have learned more, though…
The meeting did disappoint me when it comes to the point ‘public’. There were some people in the public who already seemed to know what they thought and approached the guests from Tel Aviv with questions that were not meant to get information but to make them ‘accountable’ for all Israeli politics. This was not just tiresome, it was also offensive and I felt embarrassed at several occasions. Two things they said surprised me in particular. 1. that Tel Aviv would have a right wing majority of 51%; a factual statement that anybody who prepares meetings would have looked up in advance but apparently that guy didn’t mind to do the preparation effort – so the guests explained, 31 seats in the Tel Aviv city council, 2 for Likud, 3 for religious parties, 5 seats in total, not exactly the alleged 51%. And 2. blaming Tel Aviv, a city of 450.000 inhabitants, for being inadequate in dealing with 60.000 refugees, while at this very moment the Netherlands, a country of 17 million people, is showing a hard attitude in European negotiations to invite just a few thousand refugees from the Mediterranean – some self reflection is useful at times!
What impressed me also emotionally is the remark of Eytan Schwarz about how he works on good things for citizens and ideals and many positive steps to make this world a better place and then is often confronted with negative emotions about Israel that are projected on him as a person; his self awareness and also his strength of vulnerability to say this in public. Wow. And the remark of Mickey Gitzin, short and to the point among all these prejudices of life in the Middle East commented on (my wording, not his) from Amsterdam sofas: talk less, listen more. So true. And it would have made this meeting so much more interesting because the guests had a lot to tell but not everybody was ready to hear, to listen, they just wanted to make their point about their opinion about Israel versus Palestine, and about perceived immorality of Israelians, even the guys in front of their nose, no dialogue nothing, very strange.
Thanks Cidi for organising. It was only 2 hours but I was dead tired after this meeting – not their fault and I learned a lot and also got inspired. But I also worry because of what I saw.
As I said above, the problems of that region have affected our city already and will continue affecting Amsterdam regardless of any city council decision, the meeting made that very clear… So the best the city council can do is to make sure that we will not loose the dialogue Amsterdam-Tel Aviv and to organise that we will meet as humans: not to discuss the big issues of world peace as long as we are not the UN-president, but to make the daily life of our citizens better with practical projects and solutions found across borders.

PS In 2017 I visited Tel Aviv, in these two blogs are some impressions:
http://grethevangeffen.nl/2016/07/05/recycling-plastic-tel-aviv/
http://grethevangeffen.nl/2016/07/01/security-tel-aviv/

Naziha’s spring – an outstanding IDFA documentary

naziha's spring  It was a coincidence that I went to an IDFA documentary, I never have / take time for things like that but in this case the maker of the documentary was the daughter of a friend with whom I participate in a Turkish litterature club – yes, all Turkish spoken so you understand I do not speak a lot, however I do read all the books (in Turkish) while not every participant does 🙂
I have to say that Gülsah Dogan presented an outstanding documentary that should be obliged learning material for any organisation involved in the problems of Amsterdam-West families. She has succeeded to make an inside picture about one of the (former) most problematic Dutch-Moroccan families Amsterdam-West has known. And anyone in the public can recognize and feel the characters, the conflicts, the existentialist problems that occur in this story. It is very moving – there were many tears – and the complexity of extreme family situations is revealed. This is a documentary that deserves a price and I hope it will win.
See http://www.idfa.nl/industry/tags/project.aspx?id=5273991f-70a3-431d-836f-264b6b41bce6, for more info and also times to visit next wednesday, thursday and saturday 26/27/29 November. Don’t miss this one! For me, it will still be on my mind for many days; it is really, really impressive!

Find another documentary made by Gülsah Dogan here: The hunt for my father

You might also like: Kurtulus son durak

Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014

Gay Pride Canal Parade 2014: in Amsterdam we have the Canal Parade as a unique event that can hardly be copied because only Venice would have canals like Amsterdam has them. It was, again, a very joyful event; it is so nice to be hundreds of thousands citizens celebrating together that we are a free country where we can love whoever we want. And the creative way it is expressed makes the party even better, see for example:
gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014gay pride canal parade 2014
And the Mensa boat ‘gayniaal’, alas not recognisable as such but beautiful colours:
gay pride canal parade 2014
A specific problem for the boats is that there are lots of low bridges to pass. Those who want to make ‘volume’ have to think of a way to bring it all down to pass the bridge and come up again after it. See how this works:
gay pride canal parade 2014  gay pride canal parade 2014
Also for the Army Boat, notice how all uniforms bow for the bridge – and notice also the American militaries on the boat who brought their own flag, a political statement!
  gay pride canal parade 2014gay pride canal parade 2014
Another political statement that I like: gay pride canal parade 2014
And finally a great message:
gay pride canal parade 2014
See you next year for the next Canal Parade!

Read here my blog about the gay caveman in czech republic
And here about gay pinguins Buddy and Pedro
And here about social safety at work for gays and lesbians

behold the lamb in the seize the night festival

plukdenacht13-8-13  Behold the lamb

It is one of those ‘different’ festivals, the pluk-de-nacht / seize-the-night festival in  Amsterdam. Close to my home, there is a stone head (stenen hoofd), a former place for ships to stay on the riverside, that is now deserted and, rare in Amsterdam, not being confiscated yet for building houses or offices. This is where alternative activities are organised like the pluk-de-nacht / seize the night festival.

I went there last night and saw an almost incomprehensible Irish movie on the riverside: http://www.plukdenacht.nl/movie/behold-the-lamb-2/. I felt sorry for every human and animal in the movie – none of them were happy, although the humans lived and the animals died so that was not the same fate. And I didn’t get the clue, but possibly my attention was not really focussed because of the river and the boats, the public (a festival well visited!), my lovely companion, or just the cold that is always there as soon as the Netherlands have an outdoor festival…

There were nice food and drinks available (good wine from a sponsoring local company!) and the rental blankets were ok too. All visitors were white – a bit weird in a multicultural town like Amsterdam – and their behaviour was white too: no bother, polite and fun, but no collectivity or togetherness. A festival with its own colours and flavours, in Amsterdam 4 more days to go so I’d say: don’t miss it, go, see and enjoy!

Other documentaries you can read about:
Naziha’s spring
Van Waveren tapes make you shiver
Turkish film festival Kurtulus Son Durak